The Public Education Tax Credit

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1 No. 15 August 2013 The Public Education Tax Credit Expanding Educational Opportunity in Virginia By Lindsey M. Burke A Virginia Institute for Public Policy Report

2 The Virginia Institute for Public Policy is an independent, nonpartisan, education, and research organization committed to the goals of individual opportunity and economic growth. Through research, policy recommendations, and symposia, the Virginia Institute works ahead of the political process to lay the intellectual foundation for a society dedicated to individual liberty, dynamic entrepreneurial capitalism, private property, the rule of law, and constitutionally limited government. The mission of the Institute is to identify critical issues that the people of Virginia face today, and will face in the near future, and to propose public policy solutions consistent with the principles of the Founders. The vision of the Institute is that the people of Virginia understand and practice the fundamentals of a free society, including the inextricable link between political and economic freedom; personal accountability for one s actions; and respect for the time, labor, income, and property of others. Committed to its independence, the Virginia Institute accepts no government funding, relying instead on the voluntary support of individuals, businesses, and private foundations who understand the importance of investing in the preservation of liberty. The Virginia Institute for Public Policy is a nonprofit, tax-exempt organization under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. Board of Directors John Taylor President, Virginia Institute for Public Policy Derwood S. Chase, Jr. President, Chase Investment Counsel Corporation Charles J. Cooper Chairman, Cooper & Kirk, PLLC Timothy E. Donner President, One Generation Away Becky Norton Dunlop Vice President for External Relations The Heritage Foundation Abby S. Moffat Vice President & COO Diana Davis Spencer Foundation Richard F. Norman President, The Richard Norman Company Mark Skousen Editor-in-Chief, Forecasts & Strategies Producer, FreedomFest Lynn Taylor Vice President, Virginia Institute for Public Policy Douglas C. Mills Vice President, Development Club for Growth 282 Bald Rock Road, Verona, Virginia (540)

3 A Virginia Institute for Public Policy Report The Public Education Tax Credit: Expanding Educational Opportunity in Virginia By Lindsey M. Burke

4 2013 Virginia Institute for Public Policy. Published by the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, this policy analysis is part of an ongoing series of studies which evaluate government policies and offer proposals for reform. Nothing written here is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy or as an attempt to aid or hinder the passage of any bill before the General Assembly of Virginia, or the Congress of the United States. Contact the Virginia Institute for Public Policy for reprint permission. Additional copies of this study are available for $5.00 each ($3.00 for five or more). To order, contact the Virginia Institute for Public Policy, 282 Bald Rock Road, Verona, Virginia Phone: (540) , The Virginia Institute is classified as a Section 501(c)(3) organization under the Internal Revenue Code of 1954, and is recognized as a publicly supported organization described in Section 509(a)(1) and 170(b)(1)(A)(vi) of the Code. Individuals, corporations, associations, and foundations are eligible to support the work of the Virginia Institute for Public Policy through tax-deductible gifts.

5 The Public Education Tax Credit: Expanding Educational Opportunity in Virginia By Lindsey M. Burke Contents Introduction... 1 Education in Virginia Ample Room for Improvement... 3 Universe of School Choice in the Commonwealth... 6 Empirical Evidence in Support of School Choice... 8 A Public Education Tax Credit Program for Virginia Program Design Donation Scholarship Tax Credit Program Estimating Revenue Generated through the Donation Tax Credit Personal-Use Tax Credit Estimating Demand for the Personal-Use Tax Credit Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Public Education Tax Credit Program Hypothetical examples of the Public Education Tax Credit Program Examples of the Personal-Use Tax Credit Examples of the Donation Tax Credit Examples of the Combined Personal-Use and Donation Tax Credit Examples of Tax Credit Programs in Other States A Path Forward for Virginia About the Author Appendix Public Education Tax Credit Act (Donation and Personal-Use Education Tax Credits)... 27

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7 Introduction Across the country, millions of children leave school ill-prepared to enter a competitive global economy. Nationally, graduation rates have stagnated, reading and math achievement has flat lined, and an achievement gap between low-income children and their more affluent peers persists, as does the gap between white and minority children. Sadly, Virginia is no exception. Every year, thousands of schoolchildren throughout the Commonwealth lack access to educational options that meet their needs. For the countless children underserved by the public school system, the costs to their future prospects are substantial. Like their counterparts in Washington, policymakers in Virginia have attempted to improve education by continually increasing spending. From 1994 to 2004, education spending per pupil in Virginia increased 28.6 percent, from $7,357 to $9,463 in constant dollars. 1 That trend has continued apace, with per pupil expenditures exceeding $10,700 according to the most recent data available. In fact, the average child in Virginia entering kindergarten today can expect to have over $136,000 spent by taxpayers on his or her education by the end of high school. However, ever-increasing per-pupil spending has yielded little in the way of academic improvement. Yet it s no surprise that increases in school funding have not lead to commensurate gains in educational performance. The lack of correlation between spending and academic achievement is well-documented. University of Washington professor Paul Hill researched the lack of academic progress in public schools despite decades of increased education spending. Professor Hill concluded that: money is used so loosely in public education in ways that few understand and that lack plausible connections to student learning that no one can say how much money, if used optimally, would be enough. Accounting systems make it impossible to track how much is spent on a particular child or school, and hide the costs of programs and teacher contracts. Districts can t choose the most cost-effective programs because they lack evidence on In fact, the average child in Virginia entering kindergarten today can expect to have over $136,000 spent by taxpayers on his or her education by the end of high school. However, ever-increasing perpupil spending has yielded little in the way of academic improvement. costs and results. 2 1 Dan Lips, Shanea Watkins, and John Fleming, Does Spending More on Education Improve Academic Achievement? The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder No. 2179, September 8, 2008, at reports/2008/09/does-spending-more-on-education-improve-academic-achievement 2 Paul T. Hill and Marguerite Roza, The End of School Finance As We Know It, Education Week, April 30, 2008, at as found in Matthew Ladner, Ph.D., and Lindsey M. Burke, Closing the Racial Achievement Gap: Learning From Florida s Reforms, The Heritage Foundation, Backgrounder No. 2468, October 10, 2010, at Reforms#_ftn4 (December 7, 2010) Virginia Institute for Public Policy 1

8 While it is clear that spending has skyrocketed in recent decades in Virginia, it is unclear as to whether that money is being spent effectively. Instead of continuing the failed practices of the past four decades, lawmakers should empower parents with greater control over how education funding is spent in Virginia through policies that support parental school choice in education. Allowing parents to exercise greater control over education funding through school choice options would ensure funds are used in the most efficient manner possible, and would empower families to choose educational options that meet the unique learning needs of their children. Allowing parents to exercise greater control over education funding through school choice options would ensure funds are used in the most efficient manner possible, and would empower families to choose educational options that meet the unique learning needs of their children. School choice options put parents in the driver s seat and give children access to educational options that prepare them for a productive future. Across the country, more and more states are implementing school choice options. During the school year, more than 210,000 students benefited from various school choice options across the country. 3 Nine states Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, 4 Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin and the District of Columbia offer vouchers that allow children to attend a private school of their parents choice. Eleven states Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and Virginia offer education tax credits for donations to scholarship-granting organizations. In these states, businesses and/or individuals receive tax credits for donations to scholarship granting organizations, which provide vouchers to children to attend a private school of choice. Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, and Minnesota also provide tax deductions for education-related expenses. In what is perhaps the most innovative approach to school choice, in 2011, the state of Arizona created Empowerment Scholarship Accounts education savings accounts which give parents complete control over their child s share of education funding. Parents of special needs children who choose not to avail themselves of the public school system can have 90 percent of what the state would have spent on the child deposited into their ESA. Those funds can then be used to pay for private school tuition, online learning, books, special education services, and other education-related expenditures. Unused funds can even be rolled over year-toyear, and can be rolled into a 529 college savings account. ESAs allow parents to completely customize their child s educational experience. In 2012 the program was expanded from its original eligibility pool to include any low-income child in an underperforming public school, any child of an active-duty military family, and any foster child. 3 Alliance for School Choice, 4 On May 7, 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled the funding structure of the state s voucher program was unconstitutional. Virginia Institute for Public Policy 2

9 School Choice Options in the States Vouchers Tuition Tax Credits Tax Deductions Education Savings Accounts Colorado Arizona Indiana Arizona Florida Florida Louisiana Georgia Georgia Minnesota Indiana Louisiana* Maine Mississippi Ohio Oklahoma Utah Vermont Wisconsin Washington, D.C. Illinois Indiana Iowa Louisiana New Hampshire North Carolina Oklahoma Pennsylvania Rhode Island Virginia The universe of educational options is expanding rapidly for children across *On May 7, 2013, the Louisiana Supreme Court ruled the funding structure of the state s voucher program was unconstitutional. the country. Options are Nationwide, 21 states and the District of Columbia support private school choice options for children through vouchers, tax credits, tax deductions, and education savings accounts. Fortysix states allow families to exercise public school choice, and forty-one states and D.C., families also have access to public charter schools. And across America, millions of families home school their children, while millions more enroll in online schools. The universe of educational options is expanding rapidly for children across the country. Options are proliferating so rapidly in fact that The Wall Street Journal deemed 2011 The Year of School Choice. 5 Families in Virginia should expect no less. proliferating so rapidly in fact, that The Wall Street Journal deemed 2011 The Year of School Choice. If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. - Thomas Jefferson Education in Virginia Ample Room for Improvement While proficiency levels are slightly higher than the national average, the condition of education in Virginia has much room for improvement. According to the Institute for Education Sciences, 46 percent of Virginia fourth-graders are proficient in math; just 40 percent of 8th graders have achieved proficiency. Of particular concern is reading achievement in 5 The Year of School Choice, The Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2011, at html Virginia Institute for Public Policy 3

10 the Commonwealth. Just 39 percent of fourth-graders and 36 percent of eighth-graders are proficient in reading. 6 In fact, since 1998, 8th grade reading scores have remained flat. Achievement gaps between white and minority students and between low-income students and their more affluent peers are another cause for concern. Just 19 percent of black fourth graders in Virginia are proficient in reading, compared with 49 percent of their white peers. That achievement gap persists in later years, with 43 percent of white eighth graders achieving proficiency in reading, but just 16 percent of their black peers scoring proficient. According to the Institute for Education Sciences, 46 percent of Virginia fourthgraders are proficient in math; just 40 percent of 8th graders have achieved proficiency. Of particular concern is reading achievement in the Throughout Virginia s 134 school districts, just 18 percent of low-income fourth graders and 15 percent of low-income eighth graders are proficient in reading. Achievement gaps become even more evident when considering that 10 points on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exam is roughly equivalent to a year s worth of learning. 7 In Virginia today, black and Hispanic fourth graders are approximately two years behind their white peers in reading, a gap which persists into eighth grade. Similarly, low-income fourth and eighth graders are some two years behind their more affluent peers in reading. The achievement gap is even more pronounced in math proficiency. Low-income and minority children are between two and half and three years behind their white counterparts in fourth grade math; they are still more than two years behind by eighth grade. 4th Grade Math Achievement: Percent Proficient 70 Commonwealth. Just 39 percent of fourth-graders and 36 percent of eighthgraders are proficient in reading. In fact, since 1998, 8th grade reading scores have remained flat White All Hispanic Low-income Black National Assessment of Educational Progress, Institute of Education Sciences, at reading_2009/state_g4.asp?subtab_id=tab_9&tab_id=tab1#tabscontainer 7 See: Vicki E. Murray and Matthew Ladner, Florida s Lesson: School Choice Build s Success, San Francisco Chronicle, October 20, 2010, at Virginia Institute for Public Policy 4

11 8th Grade Math Achievement: Percent Proficient White All Hispanic Low-income Black th Grade Reading Achievement: Percent Proficient White All Hispanic Low-income Black th Grade Reading Achievement: Percent Proficient White All Hispanic Low-income Black Ever-increasing programs and spending have failed to improve academic achievement in the Commonwealth. From 1970 to 2009, total inflation-adjusted education spending in Virginia increased significantly, from $700 million to $13.5 billion. Of the $13.5 billion spent on education in Virginia in 2009 (the most recent data available), approximately 60 percent was spent on classroom instruction. The remaining 40 percent of education funding was spent on sup- Virginia Institute for Public Policy 5

12 port services, food, administration, maintenance, and transportation. 8 While per-pupil spending averages $10,500 across the Commonwealth, some of the state s largest school districts Fairfax and Loudon counties for example spend in excess of $13,000 per child, per year. 9 Expenditures for Virginia Public Elementary and Secondary Education: Selected Years, through $16,000,000 $12,000,000 $8,000,000 Ever-increasing programs and spending have failed to improve academic achievement in the Commonwealth. From 1970 to 2009, total inflation-adjusted education spending in Virginia increased significantly, from $700 million to $13.5 billion. $4,000, *In thousands of 2008 dollars Policymakers should consider that how taxpayers dollars are spent has more to do with ensuring students receive a quality education than the amount of money that is appropriated. Putting power in the hands of parents to use their education funding to find a school that best meets their child s needs will significantly increase educational opportunity, and could be a catalyst for widespread systemic improvement in Virginia s education system. Universe of School Choice in the Commonwealth Virginia has both compelled support and Blaine amendment clauses, as well as state Supreme Court precedent, prohibiting public money from funding education at private religious schools. Since 90 percent of private schools have a religious affiliation and would, as a result, be excluded from participating in a voucher option, a tax credit program, separate from any public funds, would not breach any of these existing provisions. 10 Virginians are also largely supportive of school choice proposals. According to a survey of 2,200 low-income families throughout Norfolk, Richmond and Petersburg, 69 percent reported being in favor of a tax credit scholarship program. 11 A statewide survey of Virginia residents 8 Frank Johnson, Lei Zhou, Nanae Nakamoto, and Stephen Q. Cornman, Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary Education: School Year (Fiscal Year 2009), Institute for Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, NCES , June 2011, at pubs2011/ pdf 9 Stephen Q. Cornman and Amber M. Noel, Revenues and Expenditures for Public Elementary and Secondary School Districts: School Year (Fiscal Year 2009) Institute for Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, NCES , November 2011, at 10 Adam B. Schaeffer, Ph.D., Public Education Tax Credits for Virginia: The Way Forward on School Choice, Virginia Institute for Public Policy, August 2009, at (December 5, 2010) 11 Evelyn B. Stacey, Survey: VA Parents Support All Forms of School Choice, School Reform News, The Heartland Virginia Institute for Public Policy 6

13 by the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice found that overall, Democrats, Republicans, and Independents support the creation of a tuition tax credit program. Sixty-four percent of Democrats, 68 percent of Republicans, and 66 percent of Independents are in favor of scholarship tax credits in the Commonwealth. By a margin of 65 percent to 23 percent, Virginians favor the creation of a tax-credit scholarship program. 12 The Friedman Foundation survey also found that support is nearly equally strong across the state; favorability is at or above 60% for any one particular region, including Northern Virginia, Norfolk-Portsmouth-Newport News, Richmond-Petersburg, and Roanoke-Lynchburg. 13 Moreover, Virginia s families want more options; while 90 percent currently send their child to a public school, only 40 percent would choose to do so if they had other options. 14 But while demand for school choice is high among Virginia families, progress has been limited over the years. Until 2012, the Commonwealth had no private school choice options and had just four charter schools the most recent having opened over the summer of 2010 in Richmond. Last year, state policymakers enacted a very limited tuition tax credit option for Virginia families. The Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credit was enacted in 2012 to allow businesses and individuals to receive tax credits for contributions to scholarship-granting organizations. Tax credits are awarded for 65 percent of a business or individual s contribution to an SGO, which in turn provides a voucher to a low-income child (from a family earning less than 300 percent of the federal poverty line) to attend a private school of choice. Special needs children also qualify for scholarships under the tax credit program. 15 The tax credit program is capped at $25 million annually (Florida s more robust tax credit program is capped at $140 million), and the tax credit is limited to $50,000 annually for individuals. 16 Parents also have access to limited intra-district school choice: students assigned to Title I schools that are identified as being in need of improvement have the option to transfer to a higher-performing public school elsewhere in their district. Finally, the Commonwealth has a nascent online learning program. Until 2012, the Commonwealth had no private school choice options and had just four charter schools the most recent having opened over the summer of 2010 in Richmond. Last year, state policymakers enacted a very limited tuition tax credit option for Virginia families. Institute, March 1, 2009, at Support_All_Forms_of_School_Choice.html (December 5, 2010). 12 Paul DiPerna, Virginia s Opinion on K-12 Education and School Choice, The Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, November 2009, at (December 5, 2010). 13 Ibid. 14 Ibid. 15 Virginia Education Improvement Scholarships Tax Credits, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, at 16 Ibid. Virginia Institute for Public Policy 7

14 During his inaugural address, Gov. Bob McDonnell lauded the potential for school choice to open the doors to a quality education for every child in Virginia, stating: To compete in this global economy every young Virginian must have the opportunity of a world-class education from pre-school to college. A child s future prospects should be as unlimited as his intelligence, integrity and work ethic can take him. No child in Virginia should have her future determined by her place of birth or zip code.... Our Administration will demand excellence, reward performance, provide choices and celebrate achievement. 17 On the whole, researchers find that school choice benefits students academically and emotionally, with particular positive impacts on graduation rates. School choice also improves parental satisfaction, as well as the academic performance of nearby public schools. In order to achieve that worthwhile goal, and to ensure that no Virginia child will have her future determined by her place of birth or zip code, more educational options are needed. There is no reason Virginia cannot follow the lead of states such as Arizona, Indiana, Florida, and Louisiana in enacting robust school choice options for children. Failing to do so will relegate students to a monopoly public education system, limiting the potential of thousands of children and the prospects for the Commonwealth s economic prosperity in the decades to come. Empirical Evidence in Support of School Choice There is a growing body of empirical evidence demonstrating the efficacy of school choice. The existing school choice literature comprises a range of program evaluations, from vouchers and tuition tax credits to charter schools and online learning. On the whole, researchers find that school choice benefits students academically and emotionally, with particular positive impacts on graduation rates. School choice also improves parental satisfaction, as well as the academic performance of near-by public schools. D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Act (D.C. OSP) into law, creating a voucher program for thousands of low-income children in the nation s capitol. As part of the OSP s creation, Congress mandated that the U.S. Department of Education conduct annual evaluations of the program. The Department of Education released its fourth and final evaluation of the D.C. OSP in June, Dr. Patrick J. Wolf, the lead investigator for the report, used a random assignment design the gold standard of research methodology using a random lottery process to designate the control and treatment groups. The evaluation analyzed the impact of voucher use on students compared to the offer of a voucher and compared voucher recipients to students who were not awarded a voucher through the lottery process. 17 Gov. Robert McDonnell Inauguration Address, January 16, 2010, at (December 5, 2010). Virginia Institute for Public Policy 8

15 The Department of Education s findings revealed that the control group (those students who applied for a voucher but did not receive one) had a 70 percent graduation rate. The voucher recipient group (those students who applied for and were awarded a voucher but did not necessarily use it) had an 82 percent graduation rate. Most notably, the third category of voucher users (those students who applied for, received and actually used a voucher to attend private school) had a 91 percent graduation rate. 18 Voucher use led to graduation rates 21 percentage points higher than graduation rates for those children who were not awarded a voucher. Moreover, graduation rates in D.C. Public Schools hover around 60 percent. Researchers have also conducted qualitative evaluations of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program. Dr. Thomas Stewart of the University of Arkansas analyzed parents experiences with the D.C. OSP. Stewart found that the scholarship program greatly increased parents satisfaction with their children s educational options. Moreover, the vast majority of the families were moving from a marginal role as passive recipients of school assignments to active participants in the school selection process in very practical ways. This realization suggested that most OSP parents were essentially moving from the margins to the center of their children s academic development. Notably, the report found that for parents in the program, it is an opportunity to lift the next generation of their family out of poverty. 19 Florida s McKay Scholarship Program. Researchers Jay P. Greene, Ph.D. and Marcus A. Winters, Ph.D., analyzed the impact of vouchers for special needs students on surrounding public school systems. Their findings revealed that as an increasing number of surrounding public schools began participating in Florida s McKay Scholarship Program, that students with mild disabilities made statistically significant improvements in reading and math achievement. Notably, the researchers found that students eligible for vouchers who remained in the public schools made greater academic improvements as their school choices increased. 20 Researchers Cassandra M.D. Hart and David Figlio found similar outcomes with the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program. The researchers found that the threat of competition alone caused students in public schools that risked losing students to private schools as a result of the tax credit program improved their test scores. The report finds that For every 1.1 miles closer to the nearest private school, public school math and reading performance increases by Moreover, the vast majority of the families were moving from a marginal role as passive recipients of school assignments to active participants in the school selection process in very practical ways. This realization suggested that most OSP parents were essentially moving from the margins to the center of their children s academic development. 18 Patrick Wolf, Babette Guttman, Michael Puma, Brian Kisida, Lou Rizzo, Nada Eissa, and Matthew Carr, Evaluation of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program: Final Report, NCEE , U.S. Department of Education, Institute for Education Sciences, June 2010, at (November 17, 2010) 19 Thomas Stewart, Ph.D., Patrick Wolf, Ph.D., Stephen Q. Cornman, ESQ., MPA, Kenann McKenzie-Thompson, M.Ed., and Jonathan Butcher, Family Reflections on the District of Columbia Opportunity Scholarship Program, University of Arkansas, School Choice Demonstration Project, January 2009, at Final.pdf (November 17, 2010) 20 Jay P. Greene, Ph.D., and Marcus A. Winters, Ph.D., The Effect of Special Education Vouchers on Public School Achievement: Evidence from Florida s McKay Scholarship Program, Manhattan Institute for Public Policy, Civic Report No. 52, April 2008, at (November 17, 2010) Virginia Institute for Public Policy 9

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